The Manager and Leading Change

“To meet our budget we are also expecting income from our privatized parking lot,” so said Enoch, the Finance Manager.  He was discussing this pressing matter with the newly appointed Principal, Mr. Mugerwa. “However, the problem is we can’t easily truck payments!”

“How come?” asked Mr Mugerwa.

“Our sources of income are quite erratic, Sir!”  Enoch admitted.

“You mean you don’t have any way of tracking them?” Mr Mugerwa interrupted.

“No!” Enoch confessed. “How could we!”

Mr. Mugerwa had just assumed the position of Principal.  What had shocked him was to find that the  Institute which he had looked at from afar with admiration was stuck in the past where almost every facet of its work could be described as “manual”!  In the office he found they were even using old electric typewriters. Whenever he made a request for some information it had all to be delivered in person.

“We need to move the Institute into the information age,” in his first meeting with top management, he urged. He noticed almost all were gray-haired and dressed in dark suits. The reception was quite muted with some insisting there was no need. “We have always done well in the  past  and why  worry!”

In spite of this apparent lack of enthusiasm, Mr. Mugerwa was convinced the organization had to change. He couldn’t think of any other way about it given the new drivers of the business.  Soon after, therefore, one of his first major decision was to purchase a Management Information System (MIS). Challenged by his Top Management and elderly staff on why he had to spend so much, he offered, “It will help us collect, process, and store data. Once information is processed it will be disseminated at the key of the button for the required purpose.”

“But how?” one of the older staff wondered, genuinely puzzled.

“For example, payment of fees,” the principal explained, “could all be tracked by the MIS. This will help us save time and increase our productivity!”

Now that the MIS had been installed the opposition grew into fierce resistance.  “No one knows how to use these things!”  This became the convenient excuse.

“Well, let’s organize training!”  Mr Mugerwa countered.

A meeting to educate staff on MIS use was organized.  But at the scheduled meeting, which was well advertised, there was a no-show.  The department elderly heads had conveniently failed to pass on the information for their subordinates to attend. Noticing the absence, Mr. Mugerwa decided to walk down the office bloc and move from door to door directing staff to attend.

The opposition moved to yet another level. Occasionally reports came that the MIS was “permanently down” though on checking it was minor easily rectified blockages.  Once Mr. Mugerwa got a call from a prospective parent who had paid fees but yet the student had not been admitted. The Institute was not responding. When Mr Mugerwa called up the Registrar, she quickly offered.  “We have a volume of applications and I need to sort  through the paperwork!”

“I thought all prospective students were now logging on the MIS!”  he queried.

“But some parents do not know how to use the system!” explained the registrar.

“You could take them through the system,”  he advised. “The trouble is you have left an alternative to avoid usage.  What I want to see is we remove any  alternative  course  of  action.”

Here, in this case, we see the complexities of leading change in a modern organization. The new principal has rightly noted that the Institute needs to embrace new technologies to manage better. He comes from a  younger age group that is well abreast with these changes and feels they will drive the business forward. However, once he moves ahead to share his ideas, opposition rises. This resistance is driven by fear  ( real or imaginary) and nervousness at the loss of power.  The resistance manifests itself both passively (failure to attend meetings)  and actively (disruption of the new system).

To carry through this change initiative the  Principal will need a communication and advocacy plan to woo the reluctant on board.  He may also need to generate quick wins, so as to show and hopefully convince the skeptics that it all works. If resistance does not abate,  he might have to isolate the resistors and help the organization adopt new trends, which is vital for its survival and growth.

The Manager and why staff retreats matter!

Effective Manager

Since the start of the year, things had not been moving well at Safe Mothers, an NGO addressing teen pregnancy.  Because of the lockdown, the organization had had to resort to remote working. But work had not gone smoothly with rising instances of delayed report submission. Alarmed, the Executive Director, Dr. Mutumba, decided to call back staff to the office. But this move backfired when one staff contracted Covid and was admitted. Dr. Mutumba decided to send all staff back home.

Once government suspended lockdown, Safe Mothers ordered all staff back to the office. When they finally converged one observer pointed out it looked like they had just descended from the bush, each used to doing things their own way. This was quite evident not just in the manner of dressing (one staff came in shorts and sandals); haphazard working style (there was a staff who insisted he was better at working at night and kept snoozing on his desk); but also a lack of focus concerning organizational goals. It seemed something had been lost during the time of remote working.

Dr. Mutumba had been observing this situation with growing concern as each project team worked reclusively, apart from the rest.  Once an open conflict broke out between two project teams. The way they accused each other of “stealing secrets” from either made it clear that neither believed they were working for the same organization!

“I am seeing our organization has become so fractured,” Dr. Mutumba one day shared in a top management meeting.

“You are right,” conceded Isaac, the Programme Manager. “I see a lot of infighting but what can we do!”

“Sir, I suggest we have a  staff retreat to help us focus together as one organization,” suggested  Rose, the Human  Resource  Manager. “Besides, I see many of our staff have lost focus of our  vision and company goals.”

“But that will interrupt our work”  argued Dr. Mutumba, an action-oriented man coming from the medical field. “I can’t see us putting a day  off just to take staff out for a good time.”

“Sir,  the benefits will be worth the investment,” Rose persisted. After the meeting, she followed Dr. Mutumba to his office. “I beg you hear me out on the idea of a staff retreat!”

“Do  we  have  a budget for it?” Dr. Mutumba asked. “And aren’t  people too busy  for  it!”

“Sir, each of the departments can find the money for this activity,” Rose insisted. “We should actually  have started with a retreat  once we  returned from  the  lockdown.”

After a back and forth exchange, Dr. Mutumba finally bought into the idea. He delegated the  HR office to organize what  was dubbed  as  a “strategic planning  and  team-building retreat.” It drew together all the department heads and key staff for an out of town one and half-day staff retreat.

The day started with an invited motivational keynote speaker who gave a riveting speech on goal setting. It left everyone fired up.  After he left each of the 5 department heads was allocated 15 minutes to share their accomplishments against annual targets. Discussions then followed for about 10 minutes. Dr. Mutumba realized this was a good method to assess the progress of each department against set goals.

For the afternoon session staff broke into their departments to brainstorm on the goals and planned activities for the rest of the year, based on the strategic plan. Towards evening a Team building expert came in and took all staff through several fun exercises, which proved to be very uplifting.

Early morning soon after breakfast each department shared their planned goals and key activities. Before leaving, Dr. Mutumba as he closed the retreat, observed that while initially opposed to the idea of a retreat he was grateful. Safe Mothers had come together as one organization, be able to evaluate her progress and refocus. The benefits of this retreat became quite obvious once staff returned to the office. There was better teamwork and a renewed sense of direction.

For some, a staff retreat is an expense that can be avoided.  This shouldn’t be for as we see in the case above, there are multiple benefits for the organization.

The one hour meeting manager

Manager

Eng Mwangu had just taken over an exciting job as CEO of a government agency meant to regulate the rapidly growing telecom industry. Scouted and recruited from the US where he had been at the helm of the exploding cellular industry, he had taken up this job, because he saw an opportunity to make a difference back in his African country. With newcomers to the industry, some opportunistic and quite unscrupulous, he felt there was a need to develop a strict regulatory policy without deterring innovation.

Because the agency was meant to serve diverse stakeholders one of the things clear on his mind was to run an efficient organization, where clients were not kept delayed and telecom licenses would be issued expeditiously.  He had all these ideas when he dropped in for his first Senior Management meeting, where he decided to let his Deputy chair the meeting as he studied the organization. But then he was in for a rude shock.

First, while the meeting had been scheduled to start at 9 am, which is exactly when he showed up, quorum only materialized half an hour later. Eng Mwangu had left some bills on his desk which needed urgent clearance for payment. He had scheduled an appointment with a diplomatic official at 10:30 am interested in offering capacity-building support. For this reason, he was impatient to start the meeting but staff casually checked in, looking quite surprised to find him already waiting.

But that was just the beginning. The interim chair started by asking members to first draw up an agenda. A debate started and it was 15 minutes before issues for discussion where agreed on.

Once the meeting got underway, it seemed like a freewheeling debate of ideas. Eng Mwangu observed that members had to first rapidly peruse through documents before giving their views, though others just jumped in the middle and argued vehemently without any basis. The meeting was interrupted with servings of teas and eats. Eventually, it took three hours to conclude on all matters, but then Eng Mwangu wasn’t clear on what was agreed and who was to report back on what.

Back in his office, he found his visitor had left. Eng  Mwangu decided to call up his deputy. “I want to make a few changes concerning the next meeting,”  he shared.

“At your service,” his deputy agreed, eager to know the direction.

“First when a meeting is scheduled to start at 9am, this should be so, without waiting.”

“But our people are slow!” the deputy hesitated.

“Then a meeting can’t start without an agenda,” Eng Mwangu went on, decisively. “If there are papers to be discussed they must be sent well in advance and not read in the course of the meeting.  People should come to the meeting with the agenda already known. After prayer, I will open the meeting with 10 minutes of Chair’s remarks and responses. The time allocated for issues will be 40 minutes. The last 10 minutes will be for resolutions and reporting on last meeting action log items.”

“But Sir these people hate being rushed,” argued the deputy. “You will miss out on ideas.”

“Then we must choose between having organization full of good ideas but hardly executing them,” countered Eng Mwangu, “It’s about the urgency of time.”

In the following weeks, this system of managing one-hour meetings was introduced. At first resisted, staff quickly adjusted once it was clear this was the new norm, and it soon became a standard. What was even more interesting is that given the leadership support, staff further down the ranks adopted the same practices, too.

Meetings are key to running organizations. They bring together participants to agree on action items and follow up on past decisions. They provide a forum for exchanging and debating new ideas. Unfortunately, as we have seen here and know well, many organizations are paralyzed with poorly structured meetings. Many meetings are uncoordinated and without focus, eating into the organization’s time, ultimately affecting results. Given all the time they take and effect on organization results, time should be given to how to run effective and productive meetings in the workplace.

The manager and how to fire staff

Mabati Ltd, which dealt in iron sheets, had not been doing well for some time, due to low business, precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic. Kiso, the CEO after going through company finances, finally decided to slash certain expensive positions as one measure to bring down costs. He called in the Human Resource chief, Ms Mpola, whom he asked to come up with a list of those positions not considered critical but bloating the payroll. “We need to save money and save the business,” he directed her with a sense of urgency. “Get me that list before end of the week so as to inform those we can no longer have here not to report back next month!”

“But sir!” Mpola, the Head of Human Resource felt uneasy. “Whatever list we come up with we need to first look at their contracts and make sure we abide by the employment terms. Then we need also to prepare them for the eventual exit before announcement. Perhaps you may share how the business has been slow.”

“Am I getting you correctly!” wondered the CEO with some annoyance. “You mean we need to first call in these staff and talk sweetly to them about their rights before releasing them!”

“Yes,” agreed Mpola. “And not only that I suggest we also provide counseling services for those who may not easily embrace their termination, as some are quite hardworking and their esteem might be affected. There are specific training programmes we could also provide for exit transition like Financial Literacy and business development.”

“You are getting things muddled up,” Kiso waved at his HR chief. “First of all we don’t have the time and then neither are there resources for these additional expenses.”

“Well, my fear is if we don’t do it the right way,” advised  Mpola, “it might end up costing us more!”

Against the advice of his HR chief, once he got the list, Mr Kiso called in over 100 staff for an urgent meeting and without wasting quickly informed them, “The company has decided to release you. Your services will no longer be needed next month and plan to hand over. Here are your termination letters.”

There were loud moans of disbelief from the gathered staff. One hypertensive staff almost fainted. After a tense moment one person shot up his arm with a question. But Mr Kiso got up abruptly.  “I have another meeting to head to. You can talk to HR.”

In the following week one staff after another queued up at HR office  to discuss terms of disengagement. It soon became clear not much thought had been given over the fact that there were different contractual terms to be considered for each staff. The termination letter had been too general without spelling out clear severance terms. Mr Kiso was not available to discuss anything. Soon the affected staff decided to go to court. Mabati Ltd was found guilty of not adhering to her contractual terms. She was fined heavily. The news went out to the public, generating a lot of negative press, which the company hardly needed at the time, affecting her business revival.

As CEO of a struggling company,  Mr Kiso, might have had his reasons to downsize staff payroll. Yet, it was important that he should have heard from his HR chief and adhered to best practices. In this particular case, it was not only important to first revisit the contracts with the affected staff and determine how to properly severe off relations, but it was also important for the sake of company image, release staff in the most friendly manner possible. The suggestion by Miss Mpola, to go beyond and offer counseling and other personal development programs like Financial Literacy, was a good one. These programs where they have been offered during staff lay off, have ended up creating a good spirit far from an acrimonious and costly exit as we see here.

Weather it is the Covid -19 pandemic or any other development affecting normal business progression, this should not be an excuse to forsake best labor practices regarding staff termination. Failure to adhere to such might prove too costly.

The manager and the right promotion

As Lupapa branch manager of National Water, Eng Makubuya, was a sensational stand out. His job specifically had him meet a 95% revenue target and 100% implementation of new connections. To achieve this he assembled a small team with every member known personally to him. At the start of the week the 25 members would meet in his office and after serving breakfast he would appraise the past week’s performance. Targets were set and he would then let all go, occasionally visiting them individually in the field, to sort out intricate issues on the ground. Bonuses were attached to every member who met his target, and this motivated them.

Soon Headquarters heard of the amazing results of Lukaka branch and the man spear heading it all. When the job of General Manager at headquarters fell vacant, the Human Resource Chief, Rose, aware of Eng Makubuya’s performance, called and interested him in the position.

“But I am happy where I am and feel I need more time here!” Eng Makubuya protested.

“This is a bigger job,” Rose encouraged him to apply. “It will come with more perks, a larger office and you will be overseeing over 100 staff.”

Encouraged, Eng Mukubuya applied and got the job. But it didn’t take long before he started doubting his move. First, unlike the small Lukaka branch where members worked like a close knit family, at headquarters there were all these divisions involved in a cut throat competition for resources, more at the expense of the other. Departmental heads were quick to undercut each other so as to shine better. Eng Makubuya soon found that other than motivating the organization he was now spending more time blowing out fires due to internal conflicts, something as a results drive manager he was not so enthused with.

One day he got to office and found a Board member waiting for him. He let him to his office and the member was quick to get to the point. “I need you to get my daughter a position here,” the Board member said. “I know those positions are there or just create them.”

Eng Makubuya tried to bring to the attention of the Board member of a conflict of interest. “If you don’t I will make your life a hell!” The member threatened.

Just as he was dealing with this issue an audit report came out pointing to some staff companies bidding and supplying materials to the organization. Eng Makubuya decided to take action by firing the implicated staff and calling for new bidders. An anonymous staff quickly went to the IG office and lodged in a complaint accusing him of falsifying his qualifications and misusing company funds. Threatened with interdiction, Eng Mukubuya, decided to call up the line minister and explain himself. However, the line minister sent him a message through an emissary that, “I expect something if I am to save your job!”

At that point Eng Makubuyu recalled how he had hesitated to take up this bigger job. Nothing had prepared him for the fire he was receiving from all directions. He wondered if he should have insisted and not sought a promotion. Perhaps he was better fitted for the smaller local job than the big league jobs with all the intrigues involved.

In his last book on management, “It worked for me” the late US Secretary of State, Gen Colin Powell, shared a story of “an officer who was promoted from colonel to brigadier general… and he broke down under the burdens that were placed on him. One morning he committed suicide in his garage. He would have served successfully as a Colonel but we raised him beyond his potential.”

The point being as far as promotion is concerned two factors matter. The person should be ready for the bigger job having gone through the necessary trainings for the next level. But more than that it is important to realize, some of us are better at operating at mid-level than the big leagues, which comes with a different set of challenges.

The power of emotional intelligence

Godfrey Kakembo, a Management Consultant, was driving down Acacia Avenue just after fixing the troublesome gearbox on his red Mitsubishi RVR when he received a call on his cell phone. He noticed the number was one of his clients, Stephen Kadaga, the head of APEX Microfinance Uganda Ltd. He pulled over to the side and took the call.

“Hello, Stephen,” he greeted. “How is the office?”

“Well, I have got a huge problem here,” answered Stephen. “A few days ago we hired a new Operations manager but I am almost having a revolt from the team. I need your help urgently to see what we can do.”

Godfrey quickly run through his diary and promised to drive by the APEX office the following day at about 2:30 pm. Once he got there Stephen quickly brought him up to date with the issues. “I can’t believe the guy we just hired is not working out with his team. He emerged as the best in the interviews, scoring very high on the psychometric test. He has a B.Com (Upper Class Honors); a Post Graduate Diploma in Financial Management and has just completed his ACCA. Besides, he has also attended numerous short courses in East and Southern Africa. He holds a Banking Certificate. He was highly recommended by a multinational bank he had been working with and we checked all his referees. They were clean. But things are just not working out. Since he joined two team members have resigned, morale has plunged to an all time low and I expect more quitting!”

“ You said he scored best on the psychometric test,” asked Godfrey.

“Oh, yes,” answered Stephen. “I thought he is a very bright fellow.”

“ Did you use any other tool to determine his strength and weakness?”

“ We asked him a few of those questions and he was without a blemish,” replied Stephen. “ He has always been at the top and won a lot of awards. There was no shortcomings in his track record he could isolate and as for personal weakness he mentioned none, which was good.”

“ Well, may be that is the problem,” Godfrey said, “But I need to first investigate why other team members are not warming up to the new guy before I come to a conclusion. Can I carry out a brief employee survey?”

“Of course you can!” said Stephen. “Please, let’s get a way of tackling this situation before it escalates.”

The next week Godfrey executed an employee survey. The comments he received were quite revealing. His new staff described the new Operations Manager in these sweeping terms:

“ A task master! Once I told him I was not feeling well and he said I was just lazy.”

“ Always boisterous of his qualifications and great organizations he has worked for! He loves pointing to his successes.”

“ I wonder if he expects ladies to kneel down while greeting him!”

“He tore my work in front others calling it rubbish.”

“ Never gets out of his office to socialise with staff and keeps all day to his grand office.”

“We hardly have meetings with him because he says there is no need.”

“For him work is war. You are tense around him. If you make a mistake you’re dead meat. He says he has no time to suffer fools.”

“ All he wants are clients, but he has no time to go out and meet those we bring over.”

“ He gave me work and then took it away a couple of days later saying he knew better.”

“ I think he enjoys only hearing his melodious voice.”

“Sometime he makes such sweeping sexist comments like “These funny broad women here!”

After receiving these comments Godfrey summarized them in an Evaluation Report of the New Operations Manager at APEX LTD and reported back to Stephen.

“My findings leave me with the conclusion that you have a classic case of manager who has a high IQ but a low EQ.”

“EQ! I have never heard of that.”

“Emotional Intelligence,” answered Godfrey. “Such a person needs coaching in people skills and Emotional Intelligence otherwise it is just not going to work out. I can offer to coach him and thereafter we can evaluate to see if there is any improvement.”

When in 1995 American psychologist, Daniel Goleman, released his bestselling book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter more than IQ!” his emphasis was that when managing people there are other skills other than analytical and sharp memory that matter more. For example, in this case, while the new Operation Manager meets all the academic qualifications, he lacks social skills critical for his job success. The coaching he needs is to learn to be sensitive to other people’s needs, be a good listener and ultimately motivator of people. This will enable him realise all the results he craves to get through others without stirring up a revolt!

The Manager and Solving Problems

Johnny felt he had the best job in the world as DJ of one of the most popular FM radio stations, Sharp FM. He hosted the afternoon drive show whose popularity was evidenced by the number of calls received. Johnny would normally drop in at 2pm and spend an hour picking music, ads and jingles to play. Right on cue at 3pm he would enter the studio and be lost with his listeners up to 7pm when his show ended for a talk show.

Soon after the show he would spend about an hour at the station writing reports and responding to some of the e mails and text messages that had come while hosting. Then it was time to hit the bars where he caught up on his company.

Sharp FM was operating in a very competitive environment. The station relied on commercial adverts but due to stiff competition securing business was a flex of muscle. The government had also started to count on FM stations as potential revenue source and was beginning to squeeze them for taxes.

One day Johnny dropped in for his show only to find the station General Manager had suddenly quit. He couldn’t handle it anymore. But the station proprietors seemed in no hurry to find a replacement and for a while the station carried on without. However, as sales dipped without anyone to lead and DJs started dropping in late or absent themselves without notice, it became very evident the station needed a Manager.

One day Johnny reported to work only to be handed a letter. “You are hereby appointed as Ag General Manager!” Being a manager was the least of Johnny’s desire and he declined the offer on spot. “I am happy just running my show because no one bothers me!”

“No!” the owners insisted. “We feel you have managerial potential.”

Pressed, he decided to take up the offer, hoping he would balance it with running his show. The first day as a Manager he was awoken with a call. There had been an attempt to steal a transmitter that supplied power to the station mast. Johnny spent most of the day with police filing reports. He only got to run his show just in time.

The next day again before rising, a call came in. The van that picks up DJs had broken down. Johnny quickly authorized renting one from a dealer. When he got to work he found on his desk a letter of resignation from a DJ who had captured a huge market for the morning show. He had been snatched by the competition.  He started looking for replacement by placing an ad in the papers.

Then as the day progressed he received a letter from the tax authority. The station was on notice to pay up a huge tax debt or be  shut down in a week’s time. Johnny started running around banks to secure an overdraft and stay afloat.

It seemed like every day there was no room to catch breath. Just as he had solved one problem another cropped up. The days flew past and soon there was payroll to meet. But then the sales had been slow, forcing him to borrow. Occasionally one of the station machines was down and had to call up a technician to fix it. Because of all the problems that kept flowing on to his desk Johnny started missing his daily show. Eventually, he decided to give up hosting.

Stressed by all these problems he was encountering, Johnny decided to throw in the towel. However, just as he was about, he accidently bumped into an Executive coach, who had been invited as a speaker at a communications conference. He cornered the coach and bared his woes. “I am thinking of quitting because my job is so stressful,” he said. “I am always running around fixing problems.”

“Well, just imagine if there were no problems would there be a need for a Manager?” the coach asked.

“We tried to do that but then discovered we couldn’t do without one,” Johnny said.

“That’s exactly why you are a manager,” replied the coach. “Your job is to manage problems!”

Johnny came out of that meeting with a better perspective and understanding of his new role. As a DJ he had led an almost carefree simple life without anyone looking up to him. However, now as a manager, everyone looked up to him to solve their problems. Being someone who loved taking up challenges he agreed when he was confirmed. Whenever a problem came up to him, he would smile, and go ahead to figure out a way to fix it.

What makes a manager is the ability to handle and solve problems. Where you are a manager and are not encountering problems it would mean there is no cause for your positions. In fact, what makes any manager exceptional is the ability to deal with and manage problems with effective solutions.

Balancing Work & Family

“I don’t think the new CEO will last!” Sanyu, who was HR chief of Wangala Commercial Bank, was sharing with her husband. She was still trying to adjust to the working style of her new boss, as the last CEO stayed in office as late as 9pm.

“But why?” Kato asked, curious.

“Well, he hardly puts in enough working hours,” Sanyu aired her concern. “Yes he gets to office quite early but by 4pm the man closes his file, to go to the club to play tennis, leaving us buried in our work.”

“But is that bad?” wondered Kato who normally picked up kids from school, as Sanyu stayed late in office, with a desk covered with all sorts of papers to clear. “Give him a chance.”

As new boss Mr Mukasa was different. After successfully completing his six month probation he started instituting changes. Early on he had observed the working culture here involved getting to work by the crack of dawn and staying late in office. This followed on Saturday, with some staff dropping by even on Sundays. Most of the managers were pulling in 90 plus hours of work in a week.

Looking at the performance of his bank compared to others, Mukasa, could not justify those punishing working hours, as it only managed mediocre performance. In fact, lately profits had stagnated, which had caused managers to pull in more hours, as they sought ways to keep the bank afloat.

But it was all coming at a cost. One of the first thing Mr Mukasa had noticed was the huge medical bill the bank was incurring to take care of staff health. The contracted health insurance company was always billing the bank, as staff would stop at her clinics. Request for sick leaves was the order of the day. A number of staff had just had strokes while at work, and the bank had to meet their long therapy.

“I want us to enroll all staff here in some recreational programme,” Mr Mukasa called on Sanyu. “Staff here must balance their work with play.”

“But that will come at huge cost,” Sanyu hesitated. “Instead of attending to work some of these young people will just louse away in gyms.”

“First of all staff don’t need to stay up late in office if there are meeting their targets,” Mr Mukasa explained. “But I have seen the medical bill here, and I know what is causing it. I don’t want to win a war with corpses scattered all over!”

Mr Mukasa then sat down and wrote a Memo which he asked Sanyu to circulate without fail. “Staff who are unable to complete their tasks within the allocated 8 hours a day would be seen as inefficient,” the Memo read, “and must first ask permission from their bosses to stay after 5pm. No Staff is now allowed to come to work on Saturday except when absolutely necessary to beat a certain deadline.”

Once the Memo was out it caused no small excitement. The more senior staff, who equated pulling long hours with productivity, hesitated. However, the younger managers quickly embraced it. What won this camp over, including Sanyu, was that at the end of the financial year, Wangala Bank outperformed her peers on all important indicators. A staff survey found staff were generally much happier and the huge medical bill had also gone down.

There is a belief embraced by some managers that the longer one stays in office the more productive he is. However, evidence for that is sparse, as some staff just ends up creating work to fill up the hours. More so, this can also come at a huge cost by lowering staff moral due to stress, family disintegration for lack of time at home, and sacrifice of personal health.

Manage by Walking Around

St Joseph Technical College was one of the largest private vocational institutions in the country. It had a teaching department, administration department, a boarding section, an ICT laboratory, an in-house clinic, along with a school farm. Initially the college chose a principal promoted from within its ranks to lead her. But the principal was unable to pull himself from classroom instruction, leaving paperwork unattended. After a series of embarrassing incidents, where payments for supplies were not met leading to lack of delivery of stationery affecting teaching, the Board decided to look for a professional manager.

After a quick search, a former Bursar of a university, Mr Walugembe emerged the best candidate. The Board picked him as he came with a good financial background which it felt was needed, given that the former Principal had failed to submit timely financial reports. The college had been fined also due to late tax filings because the Principal was more preoccupied with teaching and did not prioritize desk work.

In his prior job as a university bursar, Mr Walugembe, was secluded in his office, waiting to receive fees, reconcile payments and file reports. He had found this management style quite effective, and he decided to use it here too. “After all they need someone to help them push paper,” he reasoned.

Mr Walugembe’s day began with getting to office by 8am, where he would sit still, receive and clear paper work, with clockwork efficiency, till 5pm sharp, when he left for home. St Joseph’s College soon observed the difference. Paperwork that used to delay in the inbox tray was cleared without delay. Any person who came to visit the school Principal would find him seated in office, unlike the past head who was everywhere, going about supervising staff.

Because Mr Walugembe hardly moved out of office, he received structured information in meetings with his top management. He would pepper his managers with questions if there was a matter he need clarity. “Everything is under control,” he was always told. Assured all was well, he settled on responding to reports that sailed up his desk. Based on these he would make decisions.

One day Mr Walugembe while leaving for home overheard two staff standing in a corridor, engaged in animated conversation.

“Do you know those computers that were just procured for the ICT laboratory  have all failed to work,” said one staff.

“Yes,” agreed his colleague. “Moreover they were just half of what was ordered and wish you had seen the bill.”

“But what could be wrong?” asked one staff.

“We have a manager who sits in office all day and has no idea what is going on,” went on his colleague.

As he drove home Mr Walugembe felt this was just loose talk by idle employees without facts. On his desk was a detailed report of the computers procured, their brand and warranty. However, nerved by the negative comment of a “a manager who sits in office all day”, he decided the next day to deviate from his 8- 5 sit in office schedule, and drop by the ICT laboratory, if only to make sure. He also decided he would not alert the store manager or ICT head.

When he dropped by the ICT laboratory around midday, Mr Walugembe was shocked to find that not only was the number of computers in operation half of what had been secured, but also not the Dell brand. He called on the store manager who, surprised to see him, muffled something like, “we are waiting for more!” On calling up the head of ICT laboratory he offered that he thought these were the computers they had ordered.

Mr Walugembe quickly realized there was fraud. While the reports he was receiving read one thing, the facts on the ground were far different. After ordering a thorough investigation which later found the store manager had been falsifying reports, he decided to adjust his working style. To ensure that what he signed corresponded with the facts on the ground, he would now on divide his time between office hours and unscheduled field tours. This way he would be able to compare and contrast the official information he received from what was happening.

There are certain managers who just sit in office all day waiting on official reports, pointing that out as an indication of a good system. Whereas such paper flow is useful, it is only part of the story. As this case shows an effective manager needs to balance his time between office and the field, just for purposes of double checking.

How crisis led to accept change!

Crisis and Change

The doctor’s appointment hadn’t gone well. Mr. Mutumba, the CEO of Global finance, a micro-credit outfit had just been diagnosed as diabetic and hypertensive. He recalled this was the same condition that had taken his father just after his 70th birthday. Seeing his patient devastated by the news, the doctor tried to calm him down. “You shouldn’t be so worried because this is a manageable condition!” he advised.

“But how!” Mutumba wondered.

“Start by cutting down your sugar and salt intake,” the doctor suggested. “You should also limit your office hours for more exercise and rest.”

Mr. Mutumba agreed and drove back to office ready to implement a new regime to help restore back his health. However, the Covid -19 pandemic had battered his company which he knew desperately needed change. For example, as a result of lockdown most customers had ceased calling upon branches for credit. Mr. Mutumba had already decided on a strategy to cut down on branches and invest in an app where customers would access financial services. The doctor’s prescription now made it even more urgent since he wanted to stabilize the company and have more time looking after his health.

However, when Mr. Mutumba presented his proposal to his top management team there was resistance. Cutting back on branches would mean loss of staff job, which most were not ready to consider. “This storm will go and people will get back to visiting branches,” said the head of business development.

“If we lay off all those staff whom we know as our brothers and sisters they will sue us for their benefits further eroding our poor cash position,” argued both the Human Resource and Finance Chief.

Faced with opposition, Mr. Mutumba decided to put his plans for restructuring on hold. But as Covid -19 effects lingered the company’s financial performance continued to worsen.

Mutumba was now having sleepless nights. As he worried over his company’s fate, somewhere he also forgot following the doctor’s prescription to change his lifestyle. He had a taste for rich oily foods which he loved washing down with beer pints. One day he awoke paralyzed with a stroke. He had to stay in bed for three months undergoing recuperation. Upon release Mutumba reflected and decided to resign his CEO job. “I need to take drastic actions to look after my health,” he wrote to the board. “Otherwise there is no way I will change while here.”

The Board scouted around for his replacement and brought in a new CEO, from an outside company. Mr Mugisha found his predecessor’s plan for business revival still gathering dust, and yet the company was hemorrhaging and quickly running out of cash. “I must quickly implement my predecessor’s change strategy if we are to survive.”

Two things happened. Being new to the company the Board did not resist as they wanted to give the new CEO a chance. And for those within the staff ranks who resisted, unlike Mr Mutumba who had a lot of attachment with the very staff he had hired and found it hard laying off, he wasn’t as much bothered. The new CEO looked at things from a pure business perspective without being affected by old lenses and quickly started carrying out the restructuring exercise.

These measures bore fruit as Global finance re strategized and emerged as a digital credit finance company, with just half of its original staff. The savings from the downsized payroll were then re invested in improving the digital infrastructure which spearheaded her to increase her market share and return to profitability.

The Covid -19 pandemic has left many companies without much alternative but to change. Unfortunately even as the facts show that to survive organizations must take a health check and change, there can be resistance until the crisis rises to a point where the organization has either to shut down or embrace change. Where change is resisted because of internal dynamics sometimes the organization may resort to an outside change agent as we see in this particular case.